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Lance Berkman says Bud Selig “extorted” new Astros’ owner into moving team to AL

Mar 20, 2012, 9:45 PM EDT

Lance Berkman Getty Getty Images

Lance Berkman used a pretty loaded word earlier today to describe how MLB commissioner Bud Selig convinced new Astros’ owner Jim Crane to move the team to the American League West. According to Jerry Crasnick of, the former Astro said Selig “extorted” Crane into switching leagues as a precondition of ownership.

Berkman hasn’t conveyed his feelings personally to the commissioner, but said he would if given the opportunity.

“If he called me, I would tell him,” Berkman said. “I think that’s exactly what it was. To tell [Crane], ‘We’re going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch’? It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen.”

Crane received a price reduction from $680 million to $615 million on the sale by agreeing to the switch, which will put 15 teams in each league beginning in 2013. While he admitted to Crasnick that he probably would have preferred to keep the franchise in the National League, he called it a “good deal for baseball” and a “good deal for our owners.”

“Lance can say what Lance wants to say,” Crane said. “He has great ties to the Astros and was a great player there for years. We certainly understand that he’s opinionated, but I wouldn’t use that strong a term. I think it was just a business deal that got renegotiated.”

Extortion is a probably a little extreme, but there’s little doubt that Crane was strong-armed into switching leagues. But I don’t expect him to complain given the sweet discount he ended up getting. Something tells me Berkman will get that conversation with Selig, though.

  1. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 20, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    I suddenly like Lance Berkman. A lot.

    • cur68 - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:36 PM

      Phat Elvis Tellin’ It Like It Is.

      • stex52 - Mar 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM

        You are discovering something we have known in Houston for years. Berkman is smart and genuine and the best interview in baseball. When asked an honest question, he gives an honest answer.

      • stex52 - Mar 21, 2012 at 8:32 AM

        And Selig can put his “conversation” with Lance where the sun don’t shine.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 21, 2012 at 8:51 AM

      BBB: That is Lance. Callin’ it like he see’s it.

  2. cintiphil - Mar 20, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    I like guys who tell it like it is (was). Selig is a jerk, because the Brewers should have gone into the A-L, since that is where they were from in the first place. For some reason, he didn’t want his old team in the A-L, and felt they would do better in the N-L. Too bad he didn’t know about the problems they would have this season, before he forced the Astros to make the switch.

    • paperlions - Mar 21, 2012 at 6:56 AM

      Selig doesn’t have that power. He can not make a team do anything. His family doesn’t own the Brewers anymore (can’t you tell, they are good) and the owner could just tell him to go pound if he ASKED them to move….just as KC did when he asked them to move to the NL before the Brewers moved. The only team in a situation where the league (because Selig can’t do anything without owner approval) could strong arm them into moving was the Astros.

      So….yeah, Berman is right, the league did extort (a forced sale) the move to the AL, but they did it the cheapest and possibly the only way they could….because other teams would have told them to piss off….and I always say “them” because these are league decisions, Selig just does their bidding and takes the public heat for bad decisions (and the credit for good ones, if any).

  3. stoutfiles - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    If you must move a team from the NL Central, which team do you move? The team with no rivals and not geographically in the same area as the other teams is a good start.

    Baseball divisions are now balanced and Houston will do just fine in the AL. It was never fair for teams in the NL Central to have to compete with five other teams to win the division, while the Al West only had three other teams to compete with. The Astros probably were strong armed but in the end it’s better for baseball this way.

  4. drakej541 - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    I don’t get what the big deal is?? The owner got a discount, and Major League Baseball now has competitive balance!! Let’s just move on and “Play Ball!!!” Go M’s!!!!!

    • cintiphil - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:32 PM

      The big deal is that the Brewers got preferential treatment at the lifting of playing time penalty on Braun and now they get to stay in this division again both because of the league president actions, which all smell very badly. I think the Brewers are dead for this year anyway.

    • cintiphil - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      The big deal is that twice in the post season Selig cut some type of deal for Braun and then the new owners for the Astros that benefited his old team. The optics of these deals really stink and it should never have happened.

  5. cintiphil - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Don’t look now, I think the M’s is DEAD. And, who knows how much Braun will play this season? And the BIG DEAL is why should the Brewers get this kind of preferential treatment just because of the ties to the league Pres? 1: They got Braun back for the season with no playing time penalty, and that stunk. 2: Now they get to stay in this division & the N-L, because of more arm twisting by the league president. And you think this is no big deal?

  6. goforthanddie - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    I’d hardly call a 65mil discount extortion. I’d also say big freakin’ whoopty doo.

    • ptfu - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:09 PM

      Being forced by Selig to switch leagues was the extortion. It was the price Crane had to pay if he wanted to do business at all. The $65M was to offset the extortion, to provide Crane some political cover, and to keep Crane from being totally annoyed with Selig. After all, now that he’s been approved as an owner, Crane is one of Selig’s 30 bosses. And if we know anything about the spineless Selig, it’s that he will bend over backwards in the interests of the owners.

  7. danielcp0303 - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    Berkman is one of the best interviews in sports, always speaks his mind. Never hides from a question, great guy as well.

  8. makeham98 - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    see if selig goes david stern on him. get out your checkbook clown.

    • ptfu - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      Free speech sure is expensive.

    • stex52 - Mar 21, 2012 at 8:34 AM

      Stating an opinion makes him a clown who has to pay a fine? What country are we in?

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 21, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      Clown? Hardly. Genuine? Absolutely!

  9. romoscollarbone - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    If the Brewers were returned to the AL, do you think would’ve kept Prince, knowing be could transition to DH?

    • Old Gator - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:27 PM

      Sure, a fat, ungainly slugger whose knees can be saved for a few more years was made for that brainless, textureless, rhythmless, thuggish imitation of baseball known as designatedhitterball.

      • okwhitefalcon - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:49 PM

        Or as the Puma called “designatedhitterball” during the World Series – “Gorilla Ball.”

      • jwbiii - Mar 21, 2012 at 12:30 AM

        Yet the Astros have been employing a fat, ungainly slugger for the past five years. That they tell him to stand a hundred and some odd feet behind their shortstop doesn’t make him a left fielder. If you’ve seen some of the routes he takes to balls, those odd feet are unusually odd.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:46 PM

      The Brewers couldn’t afford the $219 million contract so no he wouldn’t have stayed with them.

  10. drakej541 - Mar 21, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    I don’t think you people realize who the M’S are!!!!!!! “Seattle Mariners” The M’S!!!!!!!!!!!!! C’mon people, if your gonna post on a baseball blog, know WTF your talking about!!!!!!!!!!

    • jyoung1891 - Mar 21, 2012 at 6:26 AM

      It that a requirement now?

  11. skids003 - Mar 21, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Mouthy jerk. Collect your overpaid check and go away.

  12. jamiek2012 - Mar 21, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    NL Central….AL West….whatever, last place is last place.

  13. henryd3rd - Mar 21, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    Lance Berkman would you please come to the Principle’s office with your check book?

    • stex52 - Mar 21, 2012 at 8:36 AM

      If he is forced to pay a fine for what for what he said he should take the league to court.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 21, 2012 at 9:46 AM

        On what basis could he take the league to court?

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 21, 2012 at 9:17 AM

      Reporter: Mr. Berkman how do you feel about the deal to move the Astros to the AL West in 2013?

      Lance: It’s terrible. For many reasons but especially because of the way it was handled. Selig pretty much extorted Crane on the move. He either agreed to the move or the league wouldn’t approve the sale of the team.


      Computer Voice: Lance Berkman, you have been fined $5 for a violation of the Major League Baseball Verbal Morality Statute.

      Lance: What the hell was that?

      Reporter: Oh, MLB forces us to use these machines in our interviews, keep the content and language proper for baseball audiences, yada, yada.”

      Lance: Oh, Really?

      Berkman walks to the machine, collects his ticket and says: “Selig is an extorting [BUZZ], lying [BUZZ], ass-kissing [BUZZ], spineless little weasel [BUZZ] and I’d love to tell it to him face to face.

      Berkman collects all of his tickets and sits back down.

      Lance: Make sure you wrote all that down verbatim.

      • umrguy42 - Mar 21, 2012 at 9:34 AM

        Obviously he’d need to do the interview with Craig in his lair… no such machines 😀

  14. orangeflh - Mar 21, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Made mental note to NEVER visit jumbossportsblog.

  15. blabidibla - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    Poor guy was strong armed into saving 65 million dollars. I’m weeping for him.

  16. shawnuel - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Before Seatlle-ites had even heard of Ken Behring (unsuccessful) or Clay Bennett, there was Bud Selig, swooping in to by the expansion Seattle Pilots after one MLB season and moving them to Milwaukee. He’ll always be a douche to me!

  17. The Baseball Idiot - Mar 21, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    And the reason we continue to care about baseball players talking about non-baseball playing subjects is:

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